Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Penn State is making bad law

The Penn State sex abuse scandal is still in the news, as the chief witness has apparently been caught telling several contradictory stories and other accusers have suddenly remembered events from years ago when they got an opportunity for a million-dollar lawsuit. The publicity may result in a truly bad federal law.

A homeschooling group (HSLDA) opposes the proposed law:
S. 1877 will amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to require—for the first time ever—every single state that receives federal funding under CAPTA to force every single adult to be a mandatory reporter of child abuse or neglect. Currently, most states only require certain people (e.g., doctors and teachers) to be mandatory reporters. HSLDA opposes this for the following reasons: ...

Forcing the states to make every single adult a mandatory reporter with no exceptions will lead to a police-state environment, where every adult is forced to act as an informer against friends, family, and neighbors, or face possible charges. There are grave threats to liberty and personal privacy that could result from this.

Forcing every adult to be a mandatory reporter will likely lead to a massive increase in child abuse and neglect accusations and subsequent investigations. ...

S. 1877 will lead to a massive increase in child abuse and neglect investigations upon families. The stated purpose of S. 1877’s mandatory reporting expansion, along with the education campaign and training program is to “improve reporting” of child abuse and neglect. The bill will give states new federal grants to set up “experimental, model, and demonstration programs for testing innovative approaches and techniques that may improve reporting of and response to suspected and known incidents of child abuse or neglect by adults to the State child protective service agencies or to law enforcement agencies.”

Not only will S. 1877 require every single adult to be a mandatory reporter, S. 1877 will incentivize states to create untested, “experimental” programs that will increase the number of child abuse and neglect reports to CPS agencies.

HSLDA has seen firsthand how malicious or ignorant child abuse and neglect allegations have destroyed innocent families.
Two more reasons this proposed law is particularly bad is that it requires reporting suspected abuse, and it permits the report to be anonymous. It is bad enough to require the reporting of an actual crime, but this is much more insidious because it requires everybody to report every suspicion that he or she has. It is a license for troublemakers to make false accusations anonymously.

It is unlikely that this law would have done any good about the Penn State situation anyway. Sandusky was reported to the police in 1998, and McQueary said in an email that he also reported him to the police in 2002. Another report went to the police and the DA in 2008, and nothing was done for 3 years. It may well be that Sandusky acted inappropriately but not criminally, and that all credible allegations were promptly reported.

All 50 states mandated reporter laws already. I guess the homeschoolers are sensitive to this because they routinely face false CPS reports from those who disapprove of homeschooling. But they aren't the only ones threatened. This is an attempt to expand the jurisdiction of the federal govt and the state social service agencies, and to reduce the autonomy of the American family by forcing them to regularly defend themselves against anonymous accusations and explain themselves to govt social workers.

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